As we Northern-Hemisphereans descend into the damp, darkening heart of another autumn, those of us in cold enough climes observing the leaves taking their annual turn into various hues of orange and brown, one’s thoughts inevitably turn to one particular thing, an event that has given the month of October its very purpose for many years now: Awards Daily’s coverage of the BFI London Movie Festival. And those of us fond of absurdly, unnecessarily elongated sentences once again rejoice, as indeed this premier paragraph in this premier piece on #LFF2017 by AD’s premier prosaist – me – has dutifully provided. But you didn’t come here for brevity, and neither did I, not least given that my forthcoming LFF slate includes an entire 25 feature movies, all of which are due to be covered in excessive and excessively florid detail beginning in just one week’s time.
Great news for everyone, no doubt. And so many movies to fit into 12 days, in addition to this new-Londoner’s university obligations. Yes, I have decided to embark on the process of actually getting a degree before I hit 30 tired years of age, and – to my sheer delight – my generous friends at timetabling, both at my college and at the BFI, have scheduled my first two weeks of study and the festival’s 12-day run in simultaneity. So no weekday matinées for me, but no slumming it in grubby Central London hostels, no living out of a suitcase, and no time at all for me to work on my studies! Naturally, I’m undertaking a course in journalism, but I’m sure you already figured that out. What else?!
But enough about me; let’s instead discuss me, and my #LFF2017 selections, all of which were chosen by me from a roster of 243 titles, and all of which will be subjected to my opinions from my brain. In an impressive feat of pure superiority, I’m sure, I have secured tickets to every movie on my first-choice list, in every requested screening, and mostly in seats directly in front of the screen that I don’t have to endure catching a glimpse of some smelly middle-class person’s balding scalp midway through the new Varda. It’s an eclectic and highly promising stream of 25 movies, diverse in creation, outlook and intention, but united in that they will all be commanded to the ultimate evaluation of worth – my opinion!
Femmes to the Fore
There’s no excuse any more – sure, since most of the movies screening at the LFF this year are from male directors, it follows that most of the best movies screening will be by some of those male directors. But the point is that there are more than enough excellent movies (I expect) from female directors that to content oneself with one here and one there ain’t gonna cut it. Of my 25 features, 13 were either directed or co-directed by women. We welcome back the long-awaited returns of arthouse favourites such as Lucrecia Martel with Zama, Lynne Ramsay with You Were Never Really Here, and Valeska Grisebach with her first work in 11 years, Western. We celebrate the continuance of the careers of some of contemporary cinema’s defining voices – Claire Denis’ Let the Sun Shine In with Juliette Binoche, and Agnès Varda, teaming up with French artist JR for Faces Places among them. And we herald the arrival of brand-new moviemakers and rising stars like Le Fort des Fous’ Narimane Mari, Montparnasse Bienvenue’s Léonor Serraille, and The Breadwinner’s Nora Twomey. The BFI is known for taking pride in scheduling a wide range of female-directed works at the LFF, as befits an organization whose Chief Executive is female – Amanda Nevill – and a fest whose director is also female – Clare Stewart.
Is there any field of moviemaking as rich in quality and diversity, or as essential to the medium as documentary? Accordingly, it’d be a sad oversight to neglect the many acclaimed docs showing at #LFF2017, which collectively and individually offer a tremendous array of perspectives on our world as it is today, as it once was, and as it might someday become. Documentary possesses a most unique ability to comment directly on the nature of our myriad realities in this universe, to reflect back to us a true image of life in any era, in any place. We visit The Mærsk Opera in artistic collective Superflex’s work of the same name, and rural Congo in Emmanuel Gras’ Cannes award-winning Makala; we attend that fateful election day last November in Tonsler Park from documentarian extraordinaire Kevin Jerome Everson, and a virtual impression of queer Chinese life in Chen Zhou’s Life Imitation. Venerated editor Monika Willi completes the final project from a bona fide master, Michael Glawogger, crossing the globe in search of unvarnished truth in Untitled, and Harvard Sensory Ethnography Lab alumni Joshua Bonnetta and J. P. Sniadecki cross the Sonoran Desert in a timely portrait of the struggle of illegal immigrants, El Mar La Mar.
Cinema – A World Without Border
An Oscar race that’s already crammed full of contenders, and it’s only September! I fully appreciate the standard of the mainstream and/or English-language features in the LFF lineup this year, as any other, but I also appreciate that most of these features are likely to make their way to a London cinema screen or an online platform some time over the coming months. An international purview is preferred, even encouraged, considering the extensive selection accessible to attendees, and the availability of seats at screenings for less-hyped titles. I’ll be visiting several countries from five continents from the comfort of a cosy cinema screen in London – to South Africa for John Trengove’s drama set amongst, and starring members of, the Eastern Cape’s Xhosa tribe, The Wound; to Afghanistan for radio journalist Sonia Kronlund’s profile of the country’s most popular movie personality, Salim Shaheen, in The Prince of Nothingwood, and to Chile for A Fantastic Woman, Sebastián Lelio’s critically-praised movie about a bereaved transgender woman. But no need to overlook those Oscar contenders entirely – I’ve got room for Andrew Haigh’s Lean on Pete, Sean Baker’s The Florida Project, and Guillermo del Toro’s buzzed-about Cold War fantasy romance, The Shape of Water, among others.
And all covered right here on Awards Daily, with exclusive daily dispatches from a twenty-something so enamoured with this city on previous trips to the London Movie Festival that they upped and moved right here! The #LFF2017 kicks off on Wednesday the 4th of October (get used to reading your dates that way, American bitches, cos it’s the only way that makes sense!) and finishes on Sunday the 15th, with screenings every day courtesy of yours truly. My programme is in full below, and I finish by urging anyone with the means to purchase tickets to this excellent event, showcasing some of the world’s foremost artistic talents in their work and often in their appearance too – cast and crew Q&As are increasingly common at the LFF, and always highly valued! This is a terrific platform for so many of these movies, and both an opportunity for their filmmakers to cultivate a lifelong career in cinema and an opportunity for you to experience some of the very finest artworks of our time as it is being produced. Come along; maybe you’ll see me! I’ll be the unconscionably attractive one in the most stylish ensemble visible this side of Paris. Don’t try to talk to me though, I don’t have time for engaging with rabble like you, nor any of your fleas.
- The Maersk Opera (Superflex)
- Tonsler Park (Kevin Jerome Everson)
- How Can I Ever Be Late (Kevin Jerome Everson, Claudrena N. Harold) – short film
- Lean on Pete (Andrew Haigh)
- How to Talk to Girls at Parties (John Cameron Mitchell)
- A Fantastic Woman (Sebastián Lelio)
- BPM (Beats Per Minute) (Robin Campillo)
- Western (Valeska Grisebach)
- Dark River (Clio Barnard)
- Big Fish and Begonia (Liang Xuan, Zhang Chun)
- Le Fort des Fous (Narimane Mari)
- Montparnasse Bienvenue (Léonor Serraille)
- The Wound (John Trengove)
- Let the Corpses Tan (Hélène Cattet, Bruno Forzani)
- The Shape of Water (Guillermo del Toro)
- El Mar La Mar (Joshua Bonnetta, J. P. Sniadecki)
- Untitled (Michael Glawogger, Monika Willi)
- Faces Places (JR, Agnès Varda)
- Makala (Emmanuel Gras)
- Let the Sun Shine In (Claire Denis)
- Life Imitation (Chen Zhou)
- The Florida Project (Sean Baker)
- Zama (Lucrecia Martel)
- The Breadwinner (Nora Twomey)
- The Prince of Nothingwood (Sonia Kronlund)
- You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay)